I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, mounds of books, swaying to records, watercolors, sunset walks with our three yorkies, and star-gazing with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just us two (five with Rusty, Lucy, & Ethel) - I hope it brings you happiness as you snuggle in with something warm and delicious and begin reading. Enjoy, friends!

the blog!

If I had to choose:

Enjoying Spring

As I sit and write to you, the sound of an espresso machine hums in the background, the mumbling of work-from-home people surround me, and the floor to ceiling windows invite me to look out to the brick buildings and people walking by with their dogs and coffees-to-go. I’m trying to leave the house every so often so I don’t start to feel cemented to one place. To be fair, that feeling only rears its ugly head when I’m having low days, which as I said in my last post, are much more scarce than they used to be. But, today is one of those days and so I ventured out to the North Loop area of Minneapolis in search of a coffee shop, and now I’m sitting at a large wooden table with my iced mocha beside me. I packed far too many things because I just never know what I’ll be in the mood to work on — do I want to draw, blog, work on my website, illustrate on my iPad, write in my diary? So many options. And right now, I’m in the mood to write to you.

Happy First of May, friends! I hope, wherever you are, that you’ve been able to enjoy some of this early spring Mother Nature has been giving us (for better or for worse). During the gray days of winter, I truly didn’t know if I would make it to spring. I didn’t know if I’d make it to my 35th birthday. I hate to be morbid, but it’s true, and I don’t take it lightly at all. If it weren’t for Paul, and my nieces and nephews whom I would think about on the extremely tough days, I don’t think I would be here enjoying my most favorite season. To say I’m grateful for each day is an understatement. Yes, I have low days, but I’m still able to see the goodness in the day and I am now able to see life as a gift instead of a painful burden. So, I’ve been embracing this season as much as I possibly can, and I am loving it.

Since I started teaching, I neglected the care and upkeep of my home and garden. I had other more important things to do, or so I thought back then; now that I’m in therapy and figuring out some things about myself, I’m learning that I need to care for and love my home and garden. I am a home person. My home, whether my childhood home or the one we lived in 10 years ago or now, is my sanctuary. I blame my mother. She had this amazing gift of creating a safe haven no matter where we were. Our home was our oasis and the outside world could never penetrate its walls. Knowing that I wasn’t putting any of myself into my home or garden these past couple of years really weighed on me, and I’m incredibly grateful I now get to focus on them. Taking care of my home and garden is, in a way, taking care of myself.

I know I’m supposed to wait until the second week of May or so to truly start gardening, but I’ve been doing so since March. I gambled with potentially killing my plants by getting started too soon or getting that dopamine hit I would inevitably get by being productive with my gardening tools, and I chose the dopamine. Luckily, I’m not paying for it even with the frosts we’ve had since I began, so all is well!

I have had a long list of things I’ve been wanting to do to the yard, and instead of crossing off items, I just have continued to add more. And now, I’m actually crossing things off at the same time as adding more, because why not? :) Mulching, transplanting, building pathways, creating a bee-friendly lawn, planting bulbs, creating a cut-flower garden, adding rich soil to the fruit and veggie gardens, getting a jump start on weeding, adding a seating area in the garden, and as I wrote in my last post, building a greenhouse/art studio/cottage (just typing that out gives me butterflies :)).

Each time I make a run to Home Depot in my little white beetle (proper term is “slugbug” of course), I’m able to fit 8 bags of mulch in the hatchback without my car dragging in the back. Our backyard used to need at least 28 bags and that was before I tilled another area. One woman, back in early April, said I was a girl after her own heart as we both loaded our carts with bag after bag of mulch. “Starting early, too? Spring is here, no matter what they say!” Little bonding moments with strangers are the bee’s knees. I drive home, unload the bags into areas I think it’ll cover, and then get my floral gloves on and spread it all out, making it extra cushiony and thick. It’s been too long since there’s been good coverage so I want to make it up to the plants. I bought an edger for the first time (why has it taken me so long to do so?!) and I edged out where I want the mulch garden to end, I edged out (is that the term?) the fruit/veggie garden, and so I’m hoping as the grass continues to grow I’ll be able to see a beautiful sharp line of mulch vs. grass and rich soil vs. grass. Our friend from Ohio has a meticulously edged garden and I love it. Am trying to do what he does. :) That’s the thing I love most about gardening — you’re never done learning, you’re never done trying something new, you’re never perfect, and yet, it’s always rewarding.

I planted tulip and daffodil bulbs in October when the world seemed to fall on its face with war and anger and more division. I thought we could use more happiness (and I was right — my past self must have known I would need some cheer this spring), so I took my little shovel and dug through the mulch and dirt to drop clumps of bulbs near the back door, so I could see the pastel colors when letting the dogs outside each day. I have not been disappointed! They’ve all popped up, the tulips just opened today, and I’m in love. I can’t believe I didn’t think to do this sooner! This coming fall, I’m going to take a drill and plant a plethora of daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, and crocuses, all while thinking of future Nikki and Paul and how excited they’ll be when the colors start popping out of the ground.

Question for you, dear friend: if you also plant tulips, what do you do with the leaves and stems once they’re done blooming? I’ve read so many different tips online and am not sure what to try. In the past, we’ve just left them, but they tend to look scraggly throughout the summer. Thoughts? Expertise? Mother, are you there? :)

We’ve been enjoying bonfires again, something we didn’t do too often in the last year. If you asked Paul what’s one of his favorite things to do in nice weather, it would be having a bonfire, so I’m excited we’re making more time for them. He has his bourbon, I have my coffee or tea, the dogs pile on our lap or explore the yard (Rusty and Lucy are usually protecting us from the terrifying squirrels…), the robins sing themselves to sleep (my favorite sound), and slowly the stars begin to pepper the periwinkle sky. We have a large pile of dried out branches from cutting back our maple tree that is slowly decreasing with each fire we have. I cannot wait until it’s gone and the back area of our yard can go back to just grass. Each piece of wood entering the pit is a tiny victory for myself — what should I do with all the extra space?? Perhaps a walking path to the soon-to-be cottage? Why yes, I believe you’re right.

There’s a lovely bench overlooking a pond where I’ve been walking to since February (also the photo at the very top). At first, it began as a coping mechanism for my depression, and now it’s simply a place of beauty and comfort. It’s been a spot Paul has taken me when I felt like my world was collapsing all around me; it’s been a place I’ve challenged myself to walk to and to gain independence and confidence from when I’ve felt hopeless and in constant pain; it’s been a place where I practice mindfulness, observing everything around me just as it is; it’s been a place of beauty where I’m able to see the changes of the seasons in more detail. It’s an extension of my home and garden. It’s not very far to walk to, and if it were the ocean I would say that “the ocean is in my backyard,” therefore this bench and pond are simply extensions of my own backyard. I’ve taken my diary and written for hours as the sun moves overhead, I’ve leaned against the large tree next to the bench when I want to feel more like a kid, I’ve taken Rusty there to sit with me and I watch his hair fly around in the wind as he observes every moving thing, I’ve taken my book there when I just want to hear the sounds as I read, and I’ve taken myself there to just be. It’s another wonderful way I’ve been enjoying this spring.

(I have to say, I’m really loving writing in this coffee shop. Not to sound cliche, but I really do. It’s just nice being in a different atmosphere. A couple of weeks ago I packed up my things and took them to my sister’s house while she worked from home. I felt energized being there, too. Sometimes a change of scenery is just the ticket.)

As I continue to peel back the layers of who I am and what I truly want in life, I keep coming back to my 25-year-old self and the hobbies she had. I used to cook, bake bread, paint, garden, photograph, play the piano, write, etc. I’m glad I went into teaching, truly I am. But I lost a bit of myself in the process and now it’s time to gain it back. For someone who hasn’t gone through depression, it might seem odd to hear, but even cooking takes energy that I just don’t always have. I’m slowly getting it back, but for weeks I didn’t even have the energy to get off the couch, to take care of myself, to even walk to the kitchen for food. I remember talking to my mom on the phone as I laid on the couch and she asked if I ate anything that day. I told her I took a frozen pizza out of the oven an hour ago but was too tired to go back and cut it. It took another hour or so after that phone call for me to attempt to eat. Paul took the role as my caretaker for weeks, so now that I’m getting stronger I’ve been diving back into cooking.

Channeling my inner and very beginner Julia Child in 2014.

My favorite place to grocery shop is Trader Joe’s, and we have one nearby that is so small and intimate — it feels like you’re shopping in a small town and not in the shadows of the city. On the days I feel like I can cook, I search through my recipes in my house or on my very old Pinterest board and then jot down what I’ll need and head out to Trader Joe’s. I try to only shop for what the recipe calls for, but then I walk by the big section of spring blooms and basil plants and I can’t help but pick something up for our empty vases in the house. Fresh flowers have been a staple in the house these last couple of months, until I can cut our own peonies and lilacs. (Soon…) The first meal I made when I came out of the fog was pasta, meatballs, and garlic bread. It felt so good and the house smelled like my mom and dad’s house on Christmas. Just the act of making a family meal felt like a little puzzle piece was put back in my life.

Okay friends, the coffee shop is clearing out, my parking is about to expire, it’s time for me to go home and meander through the yard with some puppies by my side. Perhaps a walk to the bench is in store for today?

I hope you’re all doing well! Sending Springish thoughts and hugs to you all!


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